Report From Villanova University
SAN ANTONIO – A sizzling start that saw Villanova outscore Kansas 22-4 in the game’s early minutes, helped lift the Wildcats to a double digit lead it never relinquished. The result was a 95-79 victory over the Jayhawks (31-8 overall) that propels VU into Monday night’s NCAA Championship game against Michigan, a victor earlier in the evening at the Alamodome over Loyola.
The Wildcats (35-4 overall) shattered a Final Four record by dropping in 18 3-pointers, five more than the previous high water contest. Villanova was 18-of-40 from long range on the night (.450).
”Well, that was just one of those nights where we made shots,” Wildcats head coach Jay Wright said. “But I thought our defense was key, especially early.”
Junior Eric Paschall converted 10-of-11 field goal attempts and finished with a Villanova career high 24 points. His only miss of the night was actually a make that was waved off by the officials who deemed it to have come after the shot clock had expired. In NCAA annals, only UCLA’s Bill Walton had a more accurate shooting night in a Final Four, when he converted 21-of-22 in 1973.
After Udoka Azubuike scored on Kansas’ first possession, the Wildcats responded with a flurry of offense. Three pointers from Paschall, Mikal Bridges and Spellman helped boost Villanova to a 9-2 lead. The Jayhawks signaled for a timeout after the last in that sequence, with 17:13 on the first half clock.
Crisp passing and accuracy from deep helped Villanova extend its lead to 22-4 before Kansas responded with a 7-0 burst to close the deficit to 22-11 at the midway point of the first half. By that point, 13 of VU’s first 16 field goal attempts came from beyond the 3-point arc (they made six).
”As good a team as I’ve played against that I can remember,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. ”We got spread out on defense. The game plan went to crap. You get caught in between on defense, and it’s the worst thing you can do.”
Yet the Wildcats had a response of their own, this one centering on the long ball. VU once again heated up from distance and built a 34-20 advantage with 6:52 to play in the first period. Villanova drained 10 3-pointers in the contest’s first 13 minutes (in 18 attempts).
The Wildcats kept the pressure on for the entire 20 minutes. When halftime arrived, VU held a 47-32 lead and had already tied the NCAA Final Four record for 3-pointers in a game with 13. Brunson, named winner of the Associated Press and United States Basketball Writers Association Player of the Year awards this week, led VU with 13 points at intermission.
Devonte Graham heated up early in the second half with a trio of 3-pointers but 10 points from Paschall – including a pair of 3-pointers – helped Villanova retain its advantage. After a Spellman 3-pointer from the left side after 6:30 of the second half, the Wildcats held a 65-44 lead.
They were never threatened again.
”If we didn’t get stops, it was getting back to being a five- or six-point game,” Wright said.
Kansas was led by All-American Devonte Graham’s 23 points.